A new substance-abuse and mental-health treatment center will open next week in Whitehall.
Lighthouse Behavioral Health Solutions, 4000 E. Main St., is scheduled to begin outpatient treatment Tuesday, May 15, said founder Matt Romeo, whose personal bouts with anxiety and depression, and with marshaling extended family members and friends through the anguish of opiate addiction, inspired him to offer better treatment alternatives.
"I was frustrated with the process," Romeo said about his experience in seeking treatment for those he knew who suffered from opiate addictions.
Romeo said he often encountered lengthy waiting lists to enroll someone at nonprofit treatment centers in central Ohio, typically recommended after short-term treatments at a detoxification or rehabilitation center.
"The process to find them the help they needed was just overwhelming," said Romeo, adding those he knew with addictions eventually found help at out-of-state facilities.
So he decided to do something about it.
A financial adviser by trade at a Dublin-based company, Romeo gathered other investors to found Lighthouse.
They purchased a 15,000-square-foot building at 4000 E. Main St. -- formally occupied by the Ohio Nurses Association -- for $1 million.
A staff of eight full-time employees will begin accepting outpatients May 15.
Lighthouse will lease the building from the Ohio Nurses Association, Romeo said, until completing a $300,000 remodeling project in preparation for inpatient care.
By Oct. 1, Romeo said, Lighthouse will begin an inpatient treatment program with a staff of 30 full-time employees and 32 beds -- 22 for men and 10 for women.
The center's website, lighthousebhsolutions.com, was expected to go live May 7.
Romeo said the decision to found Lighthouse hinged on a new state law effective at the start of the year that redesigned behavioral health treatment in Ohio.
The Ohio Department of Medicaid chose to mirror the policy of the American Society of Addiction Medicine and allow for Medicaid to cover a wider array of treatments for addiction and also at private facilities.
"Residential inpatient care is now covered at facilities where patients can receive high-quality and timely care," Romeo said.
Overseeing that care will be Alisha Rinehart, chief clinical officer for Lighthouse.
"We will provide the best clinical care at a facility with upscale amenities," said Rinehart, adding that privately financed centers such as Lighthouse typically can provide amenities such as yoga that may augment recovery.
After inpatient care begins, Lighthouse will be a 24-hour operation and secured with a fence and cameras, said Lisa Pertee, an attorney and chief executive officer of Lighthouse.
Lighthouse considered multiple locations for its first center, Romeo said, and settled on Whitehall because city officials were eager to collaborate and to be near to a patient base.
Whitehall has a "drug court," Rinehart said, and its location will be convenient for those who appear in Whitehall's mayor's court and qualify for an intervention program.
Rinehart said she also has reached out to Whitehall's fire department to facilitate referrals from medics to encounter people overdosing on opiates or other drugs.
A majority of the center's patients, about 80 percent, are expected to be self-referrals.
Fire Chief Preston Moore welcomed the center to town.
"We expect Lighthouse will offer the services some people need (and we) like (that) they have chosen Whitehall," Moore said.
For Whitehall residents in need of treatment, the opening of Lighthouse returns a local option to the city.
Braking Point Recovery Center, 4040 E. Broad St., closed in October 2017 following an FBI raid at that location and another center in Austintown.
The execution of the search warrant followed a ruling from the Trumbull County coroner that the July 9, 2017, death of Tom Dailey, co-owner of Braking Point's Whitehall center, was an accidental overdose from heroin and fentanyl found in his system.
Braking Point had opened its Whitehall center in January 2017.
Whitehall City Councilwoman Lori Elmore said the facility is needed "because substance abuse affects the whole family."
City Council on April 17 approved a special permit required to allow Lighthouse to operate a medical facility with inpatient care.
"I saw a need to fill a void" in best practices for addiction treatment, Romeo said -- "and we believe Lighthouse will fill it."